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Light Trails

Whenever you hear light trails in photography, you instantly think it’s a complicated art and some shy away from it. I thought this but it is easier then you think. You need time, patience and an understanding how your camera works.

This guide will show you the basics on creating light trails. The rest is down to your imagination.

Before you get started… 

You need a camera that allows you to control the manual settings and a tripod. Find a location that is quiet. A quiet over bridge is a good starting point. You need to wrap up warm.

Once you’ve thought about your location, aim to arrive there in good time and ideally before the sun sets. This allows you to setup your camera and find a focal point while you still have light.

  • Setup your tripod making sure it’s level
  • Switch camera mode to manual (you can use aperture priority mode but sometimes it’s good to control everything especially in this type of photography)
  • Set ISO to 100 (high numbers generates a huge amount of digital noise and will affect the finished image)
  • Set the aperture to f/22 (this keeps the entire scene, from the front to the back in focus.
  • Shooting mode needs to be switched to timed delay. Your camera shakes when you press the shutter release. The timed delay allows the camera to settle before it takes the picture.

Now you’re ready…

You need to use spot metering mode and single servo autofocus (AF-S on a Nikon camera). Move the focal point so it can focus on an object that is two thirds of the way into the scene. Use the shutter button, depressing it half way so it can focus on the object. Try it several times to ensure the camera is focusing on the same point. Now lock the focus (AE-L button or switch the lens to manual). It is important that you don’t change the focus as once it gets dark it will be much harder to grab that important focal point.

You need to use your exposure meter to alter the shutter speed so the light is in the middle.


And that’s it. Start taking those pictures.
Key things to remember is practice, practice and practice.

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